Some congressional Democrats are making a new push to limit permits for plastic factory construction, saying it's needed to protect vulnerable communities, and pairing it with national targets on cutting single-use plastics and increasing reusable packaging.
The Protecting Communities From Plastics Act, unveiled Dec. 1, would require the Environmental Protection Agency to write detailed new factory emissions and pollution standards, as well as set targets on cutting single-use plastics at least 25 percent and switching 30 percent of packaging to reusable formats by 2032.
"Plastic pollution isn't just a problem for our oceans and climate; it's a massive environmental injustice driven by the fossil fuel sector," said Rep. Jared Huffman, D-Calif. "Fence-line communities are overburdened with plastics' toxic emissions. We have got to start putting people over Big Oil's plastic profits."
Plastics industry groups decried the legislation, which builds on permit pause language in the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act. The new bill is being led by Huffman, Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., and retiring Rep. Alan Lowenthal, D-Calif.
The American Chemistry Council said the legislation would "cripple" the plastics industry.
"The Protecting Communities from Plastics Act is a raw deal for America that would stall the acceleration of a circular economy for plastics currently underway," said Joshua Baca, vice president of plastics at ACC. "American jobs would be lost, billions of dollars of investments in new technology would be jeopardized and the climate crisis would worsen as a switch to materials with a higher carbon footprint ensues."
Baca said Congress should instead pursue legislation along the lines of five-point proposal from ACC, which includes 30 percent recycled content in U.S. plastic packaging by 2030, an extended producer responsibility system and a regulatory system that scales up both chemical and mechanical recycling.
As well, the Plastics Industry Association said the proposal would push jobs outside the United States and "destroy" the industry.
"I'm disappointed but not surprised by the continued hyperbole contained in this legislation, which only causes divisiveness in the efforts to come to real solutions to the environmental challenges we face," said Matt Seaholm, president and CEO of the association. "In their rush to demagogue, the authors of this bill fail to recognize that plastic is essential to society."